Reflections from the Desert

The long and windy road, steep with curves, valleys and potholes, ends abruptly as I veer off a cliff into an abyss so dark I cannot maneuver.

His death wasn’t a Hollywood ending. It wasn’t filtered with soft words spoken before one slowly drifted into the afterlife. It was not the ‘happily into eternity’ I prayed, or envisioned.

I hoped we would be alongside each other as he reached for my hand, and I reached for his, and he longingly turned his head to lock eyes, when a small smile briefly emerged before his body stilled, and his eyes closed as his soul entered Heaven.

Instead, the last moments sent me in a whirlwind. After I arrived home, after days away in another state to celebrate the life of both my dad and Bill, I was exhausted, and fell into a quicksand of hurt so deep I wasn’t sure I’d climb my way out.

Honestly, I still feel this way.

But, I believe the same God who guides the good times, is also there in the grief, waiting to hold us close in His comforting arms.

Days before Bill left this earth, a “breadcrumb” of hope appeared on my front porch– in the form of a Bible, delivered by an anonymous angel. I believe it may be the tool in which God will utilize to transition my mourning into joy again.

I was at my lowest on second night home.  The shock and numb gave way to a sorrow so intense, I’ve never likened it to anything to date. Sadness debilitated all senses; even of God and His nearness.

I felt the pang of death overtake me. The desire to die to be with him overwhelmed me, and I didn’t desire to fight its pull.

If it wasn’t for his final letter, which urged me to stay the course, I may have followed through…

I want you to be strong and live a beautiful, fulfilling life.

Standing in my bathroom, I cried out to my God, acknowledging my proposal of ending it all. But, overriding that thought, a declaration rose up from within.  I am not sure it was entirely from me, or one planted there from the One Above,

I will give you a year, Lord.

This is where the new Bible comes in.

I’ve read through the Bible on a few occasions, the last couple of times in 90-day spurts. But I’ve found a reading plan that travels about the pages in a completely different way. It is in this daily reading that I pray and expect Him to show up and meet me here, until, at the end of a year, my desire to live will no longer be in question.

God, I’m giving You one year to rekindle the desire to live again.

Maybe on the final day, I will be like George Baily from, It’s a Wonderful Life, crying out in the location where only earlier he attempts to end his life, with fists rubbing his crying eyes, saying, “I want to live again.”

Lord, I too want to live again.

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Strong to the Finish

A friend asked if I’d share what I shared at Bill’s memorials.  The following are the words I hoped would express this man’s strength, while at his weakest.

I feel a time of hibernation on the horizon, so until we meet again…

 

I noticed a partial doodle of a cartoon character on a piece of paper. Unfinished. Even so, the resemblance was unquestionably Popeye, the sailor man. Bill oftentimes drew a near- perfect portrait of the man with the anchor-weighted forearms, from cartoons gone by.

If you are unfamiliar, Popeye was most notably known for being down for the count from a battle with his archenemy, Brutus, usually battling over the fickle love of his life, Olive Oil.

Yet, when it appeared all was lost, he’d reach out for a can of spinach, and suddenly everything would turn into his favor. Maybe it was the spinach.

I’m strong to the finish cause I eats me spinach…

Popeye reminds me so much of Bill. Bill, a larger-than-life man who was strong to the finish in this thing called life.

From the initial phone call indicating the beginning of a long and difficult road, he fought this diagnosis head on. Surgery after surgery. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and every strange holistic measure we put him through he fought this fight with everything he had.

Never falling far into pity.

Always hoping for the best.

Without complaint.

Well, maybe the exception of the frankincense drops in his daily shake. But, this was the same man who endured one of my first meals years ago, that being Shepherd’s pie, when I thought a clove of garlic was the actual bulb. He ate the whole thing. Maybe it was the Italian in him.

Each blow seemed to hit below the belt. The cancer wouldn’t relent. Eventually, it would take his body. But it never stole his spirit.

Throughout this journey, his desire was for the girls and me to be strong also. Actually it seemed to be his sole purpose.

Early on, Thanksgiving 2015, while sitting at the dinner table, he began to pray over our meal, when his words crumbled under the weight of tears that refused to stop. But, the little that made its way out was for us girls, and how much he cared for us.

Yes, he prayed for himself, and a miraculous healing, and all things one prays in the midst of a battlefield. But, his focus was set on us.

Oftentimes strength is portrayed with powerful muscles like one of a bodybuilder, but I witnessed a more powerful strength shine brightly in his last months, weeks and days as his body betrayed him.

He devoted each day to teaching me necessary things to sustain me after his departure. He showed me how to manage financial matters like paying bills and budgeting expenses. To maintenance issues, like changing air filters, and edging sidewalks, or is it the lawn that is edged and not the sidewalk?

He took care of things that were not necessities also, like how to grill on the Big Green Egg—which if you are unfamiliar, is a round, ugly contraption of a grill that is supposed to be superior at grilling meat.

He left no unfinished business. Every detail, down to a letter to each of us to be opened at his departure, was taken care of as if it were his life mission.

Near the end, before cancer stole his thought process, at bedtime I’d hold his hand and rub his arm, as I prayed to our Savior on behalf of our situation.

When after one of our final prayers together, I held onto his hand long after I thought he had drifted to sleep, he began to pray…

Dear Lord, thank you for this woman I love more than anyone, who has blessed me with 28 years.

Thank you for the best three girls in the world.

Help them.

Bill Barone was strong to the very finish with a strength that was larger than life. And I hope we will be able to model his strength all the days of our lives.